Online Tuner | A Tuner for Every Instrument

Online Tuner

Hz

How To Use A Tuner

 

Playing with a tuner will help develop your intonation and an understanding of the tendencies of your instrument.

  1. Start by checking to see if your instrument is generally tuned. Every instrument has a tuning procedure that typically involves checking certain specific notes.
  2. Identify common problem notes. These might be problem notes that are specific to you or they might be due to tendencies with your instrument. For example, on wind instruments there are certain fingerings that will naturally be sharp or flat.
  3. Once you have found those problem notes, play the passage of music slowly and then stop and hold the problem note and look at the tuner. Try to adjust the note so that it gets in tune. This might mean changing fingerings or adjusting your embouchure.
  4. Remember the adjustment you made and replay the passage. When you get to the problem note, try to hit it with the adjustment in mind. Hold the note and look at the tuner. How did you do?
  5. Repeat this process until you can consistently hit the note in tune.
  6. Write down what you needed to do in order to make the adjustment in your practice journal or notate it in your music.
 

What is a Tuner?

A tuner is a device musicians use to detect pitch accuracy. It will let a musician know if the note they are playing is sharp (too high), flat (too low), or if it is in tune. The accuracy of a pitch is what musicians call intonation. Tuners work by detecting the frequency of the pitch (sound waves). For example, an A is 440 hz. If an A is sharp, it will be 441 hz or higher. If it is flat, it will register as 439 hz or lower. While tuners work by tracking hertz, musicians measure how close they are to the pitch in measurements of cents. Cents and hertz are not the same thing.

What Causes A Note To Be Out of Tune?

  1. Temperature can cause an instrument to be out of tune. If an instrument is cold, it will tend to be flat. If it is hot, it will tend to be sharp. This can be challenging for wind players as instruments heat up as they play them due to hot air.
  2. Fingering combinations. Wind instruments change pitch by making the instrument longer or shorter. An easy example to picture is the trombone. When a trombone player extends the slide, the pitch gets lower. The same is true for all wind instruments. However, many instruments have multiple ways to play the same pitch (Example: on a trumpet, pressing the first and second valve is the same as pressing just the third valve). Some fingerings have natural tendencies to be flat or sharp.
  3. Air support. For wind instruments and vocalists, air support can impact a note’s intonation. Not enough air support will make the note flat.
  4. What role a note plays in a chord. A major chord is made of three notes (the root, the third, and the fifth). For a chord to sound in tune, the third will need to be lowered (lowered by 14 cents) and the fifth will need to be raised (raised by 2 cents). If the third was to be played perfectly according to a tuner, it would be out of tune with the rest of the chord.

How to Tune Chords

In the last bullet above, we saw that a chord can sound out of tune even though every member of the chord is showing as in tune on a tuner. This is known as "just intonation." This table is just a guide and not hard rules. Always default to your ear and the ears of those around you. The most common way to discuss chords in a generic way is through numbers which represent the interval relationship to the root of the chord. As an example, the C Major chord has a root of C (it will always be in the name of the chord). The next member of this chord is a third above it, E, so we call it the third.

Chord Example Root Third Fifth Sixth/Seventh
Major chord how to tune a major chord No adjustment -14 cents +2 Cents N/A
minor chord how to tune a minor chord No adjustment +16 cents +2 crents N/A
diminsihed chord how to tune a diminsihed chord No adjustment +16 cents -17 cents N/A
augmented chord how to tune an augmented chord No adjustment -14 cents -4 cents N/A
Major 6th how to tune a Major 6th chord No adjustment -14 cents +2 cents -14 cents
minor 6th how to tune a minor sixth chord No adjustment +16 cents +2 cents +19 cents
diminished flat-6th how to tune a diminished flat sixth chord No adjustment +16 cents -17 cents +14 cents
Seventh chord how to tune a seventh chord No adjustment -14 cents +2 cents -31 cents
Major seventh chord No adjustment -14 cents +2 cents -12 cents
minor seventh chord how to tune a minor seventh chord No adjustment +16 cents +2 cents +18 cents